Australia and the Jessup Moot (and Andrew Denton’s Live & Sweaty)

The University of Sydney won the 2011 Jessup Cup yesterday in the 52nd anniversary of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (the 35th anniversary of Australia’s participation).  Hearty congratulations.  Astoundingly, this marks the sixth (6) time in twelve (12) years that a law school from Australia has won the competition (last year a team from my own institution, the Australian National University, won).  Such an outstanding performance in the “Olympics” of international mooting, puts me in mind of a routine that Andrew Denton and the original cast of Live & Sweaty did back in 1992 and recorded on an EP.  Click here for some laughs.

In a competition of over 500 teams from 80+ countries, Australia’s winning ways indicate something good about international law in Australian law schools.  At a number of Australian law schools, including my own, international law is a subject that must be successfully completed early on in order to graduate.  Happily, the vast majority enrolled in the course here are keen students of international law (even if not devotees).  This requirement, however, makes all students familiar with international law.Moreover, international law is not so much “a course; it is a curriculum” in many Australian law schools (words from Henkin, Pugh, Schacter & Smit in the 1980  edition of their famous casebook (p. LVIII) – a truism still contained in the 5th edition with Damrosch, Henkin, Murphy & Smit (p. xvi)).  It is the unusual student in an Australian law school that would not complete advanced subjects on international law during her studies.  I suspect both these circumstances help lift the Australian performance in the Jessup.  (Admittedly, it also does not hurt that preparation for the competition takes place over the antipodal summer break so that students can be single-minded in their preparation).

In 2008, I was the National Administrator for the Australian National Jessup Competition and was impressed by the high degree of preparation on the part of all the teams.  By way of background, the 2008 Program booklet that I edited (drawing heavily on the previous work of my colleagues, Don Rothwell and Tim Stephens) recounted the history of Jessup in Australia:


The Jessup Moot has a history in Australia going back to 1977, when the first Regional Rounds were held in Sydney at which the Final was presided over by Sir Percy Spender, a former Australian President of the International Court of Justice.  Professor Ivan Shearer, then of the University of New South Wales, was responsible for initiating the Jessup Moot in Australia, which in its early years regularly attracted eight competing teams from across Australia.  In recent years, with the growth of Australian University Law Schools, the number of competing teams has also expanded to include teams from all States and Territories.  Australian teams have enjoyed considerable success in the International Finals of the Jessup Moot held in the US, even from the early days of the Australian competition.  Seven Australian teams have won the Jessup Cup, with six others having reached the Final of the competition.  At the International Finals, Australian teams have also won Best Memorial awards and Best Oralist awards.

The Jessup Moot in Australia has enjoyed a good relationship with the High Court of Australia and the Australian National University.  The preliminary rounds have been held at the Australian National University for many years, while the High Court of Australia has likewise provided the venue for the Australian Final, which is presided over by a High Court judge.  Support is also provided to the competition by government agencies and various associations with an interest in international law, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General’s Department, the International Law Association (Australian Branch), and the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law (ANZSIL).

The administration of the Jessup Moot within Australia has traditionally been the responsibility of the competing teams.  Originally a rotation system operated with each Law School being responsible for administering the competition in a single year.  More recently, this system has been adjusted to establish the administration on a semi professional basis, though the National Administrator remains an academic.

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